Councilman Quinton Lucas announced his candidacy for mayor of Kansas City on Saturday, becoming the sixth Council incumbent and ninth contender overall to enter what is, for the moment at least, a packed 2019 primary.
Lucas, 33, is an attorney and at-large representative for the 3rd District, which takes in much of the city's economically distressed East Side. In remarks prepared for his early-evening kickoff at Ruby Jean's Juicery on Troost Avenue, he pledged a mayoralty focused on accountability at City Hall and a greater quality of life for the city's poor.
Lucas said his vision of public service was forged by the struggles of his single mother, "who had no money but a lot of faith" and got him and his two sisters through college.
"I am a child of this community," Lucas said. "I serve you because I know and remember what it's like to need that bus to be on time, to need that new business down the street to open so you can work without traveling thirty minutes out to the suburbs, to need to feel safe where you live and know that your sister or cousin will come home alive and won't be another statistic in a city where we have far too many."
Lucas cited a legislative record that includes lead sponsorship of a 2016 ordinance that capped the level of economic incentives available to developers and a 2018 measure trimming city staff's power to sign contracts without council authorization. Last month, he led passage of an ordinance establishing the city's definition of affordable housing as that which would cost a family making the city's median household income no more than 30 percent of its earnings.
Along with 3rd District Councilman Jermaine Reed, also a mayoral candidate, Lucas has also been deeply involved in the city's $27 million effort to revive the historic 18th & Vine District, an initiative that has yielded mixed results. Lucas and Reed serve on the board of the financially troubled American Jazz Museum.
Lucas attended Kansas City's Barstow School, Washington University and Cornell Law School. He is a law professor at the University of Kansas.
His announcement, widely expected, was the only the second most newsworthy event in Kansas City politics this past week. The Star's report on Friday that former state lawmaker, Missouri secretary of state and U.S. Senate candidate Jason Kander is seriously considering the mayor's race sent a jolt through the field of candidates.
Kander, who had been focused on building a national profile, including a possible 2020 presidential run, could announce his plans as early as next week, sources told The Star. Most of the contenders, citing Kander's lack of involvement in local issues and the possibility that he views the mayoralty as only a stepping stone to higher office, said they would remain in the race. However, it is expected that Kander's candidacy could eventually shrink the field.
Lucas, who said Friday that Kander would find that serving in Kansas City is "not like going to steak dinners in New Hampshire," did not directly address his possible entry in his Saturday remarks.
But he took an indirect jab at Kander's abrupt about-face by quoting his former political consultant, the late Patrick Gray.
"He told me this about politics years ago: 'There are a lot of people who run to be something. You have to be in this to do something.' I've never forgotten him and the advice he gave me then."
In unscripted comments at his campaign event, Lucas pursued the theme: "This isn't just a stepping stone for me. This isn't just something that lets me go around to different places."
Other candidates in the race are council members Alissia Canady, Jolie Justus and Scott Taylor; Mayor Pro Tem Scott Wagner; Crossroads businessman Phil Glynn; construction attorney Stephen Miller; and Rita Berry.
Should all remain in the race, it would be the largest mayoral primary field since 2007, when 12 candidates ran. City auditor Mark Funkhouser and Councilman Alvin Brooks emerged as the top two voter getters, with Funkhouser winning the November general election.